August 28, 2013: Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The hidden history of the march may surprise you—and it shows why we need to keep marching today.
Hidden History: The March on Washington was not organized by Martin Luther King.
The march is best remembered for Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech which continues to inspire millions of Americans.
But Dr. King was not the main organizer of the March on Washington—a labor leader was. The March on Washington was the brainchild of A. Philip Randolph, the 74-year-old leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first primarily Black labor union.
Randolph first called for a march on Washington to protest employment discrimination in 1941. That never happened, but he relaunched the project in 1963 and reached out to King and other civil rights and labor groups. The rest is history.
Hidden History: Marchers Demanded Jobs and Economic Justice
Dr. King’s speech is mostly remembered as a call for racial understanding and his dream that one day his children “will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
The marchers demanded comprehensive Civil Rights legislation: the Right to Vote, the desegregation of all public schools, and an end to housing discrimination.
But that was not all. Marchers also demanded a minimum wage high enough to lift a family out of poverty, and “give all Americans a decent standard of living.” They demanded “meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.”
These demands for economic justice tend to be forgotten—and are still unmet.
Hidden History: Wages and Income Inequality are Worse Today Than in 1963
The federal minimum wage today is less than it was at the time of the March on Washington. The $1.15-per-hour minimum in August 1963 translates into an inflation-adjusted wage of about $8.80 today. The current minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Marchers demanded an 85¢ increase in the minimum wage to $2.00. Adjusting for inflation, that wage would be more than $13.00 an hour today.
We Need to Keep Marching
Fifty years later, the March on Washington continues to inspire and shows the power that labor and civil rights organizers can have when we work together.
The March on Washington helped win the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act which made racial and gender discrimination illegal in the workplace. Our country is a much better place for the March and the Civil Rights Movement.
But the lack of “meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages” and growing economic inequality are the March’s unfinished business. We need to keep marching today.
10. "Does anyone know how to drive stick?"
9. "Who wants a Skinnygirl Margarita?"
8. "Overtime Schovertime"
7. "Sorry I'm late -- I was up all night twerking"
6. "Have a Teamster-ific day!"
5. "I get to meet Letterman AND Anderson Cooper? Pinch me"
4. "Hey, boss, mind if I work on Labor Day?"
3. "Where can I meet a nice, burly fellow?" (Woman)
2. "Where can I meet a nice, burly fellow?" (Man)
1. "Thank YOU, Trump University"
The Labor Movement Will Be Televised: "Strength in Union" Examines Past, Present, Future of US Labor Movement
A new made-for-television documentary series aims to unpack the history of the labor movement in the United States in five one-hour episodes to combat anti-union propaganda at a time when union power is waning and collective-bargaining rights are under attack across the nation.
Legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger will help narrate the new series "Strength in Union," which tackles the history of the U.S. labor movement from its origins in the early Industrial Revolution to its historic struggles in incidents ranging from the battle with the Pinkertons, the Haymarket Riot in Chicago, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory strike and fire, the Taft-Hartley Act, Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers in the '80s, and on to some of today's most important labor issues, including free-trade agreements and the effects of globalization on American unions.
Click here to read more at Truthout.
Fast food strikers will escalate their campaign within the next week and a half, according to the key union backing their recent walkouts.
In a Monday interview in her Washington, D.C., office, Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry told Salon that SEIU members "see the fast food workers as standing up for all of us. Because the conditions are exactly the same." Henry was joined by SEIU assistant to the president for organizing Scott Courtney, who said to expect "a big escalation" from fast food workers in "the next week or 10 days." Two weeks after one-day strikes by thousands of employees in the growing, non-union, low-wage industry, Courtney said, "I think they're thinking much bigger, and while the iron's hot they ought to strike. No pun intended."
Click here to read more at Salon.
Fast food workers around the country have mounted dozens of strikes over the past few months. Their demands are simple: a pay raise to $15 per hour - roughly double the federal minimum wage - and union recognition.
The "Fast Food Forward" movement began in New York City last fall and quickly spread to other cities. In some places it grew to include workers in other low-wage jobs besides fast food. Like the earlier Occupy Wall Street protests, this new movement has captured the imagination of millions of Americans angry about the ever-widening gap between haves and have-nots.
But unlike Occupy, with its youthful base and reliance on new social media, Fast Food Forward was born from a marriage of old-fashioned unionism and community organizing. Its protagonists are ordinary workers, many of them black, brown and/or female.
They are struggling to support their families on jobs that pay at or close to the legal minimum, with few benefits. Adding insult to injury, full-time work is hard to find in the fast food and retail world. But many workers have no other options, since the Great Recession permanently wiped out millions of better-paying jobs.
The federal minimum wage dates back to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act - part of FDR's New Deal. But inflation has eaten away at the guarantee it was meant to provide. In today's dollars, the minimum wage is worth less now than it was half a century ago.
Meanwhile, what FDR called "organized money" has been on the warpath against another legacy of the New Deal: organized labor. Today only 6.6% of private-sector workers are union members, less than any time since the early 1930s. That's another reason income inequality has soared.
But the labor movement refuses to die. Instead it is struggling to reinvent itself. Fast Food Forward is backed by the giant Service Employees International Union, which boasts more than 2 million members and is known for its creative organizing tactics. Back in the 1990s the union's Justice for Janitors campaign lifted standards in another low-wage sector, winning union contracts that improved pay and benefits and converted part-time building service jobs to full-time ones in cities around the country.
As organized money has successfully choked off the traditional road to unionism through the system created by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act under FDR, unions have turned to strategies from the community organizing tradition. In the case of the fast food strikes, for example, the union partnered with established community-based groups like New York Communities for Change.
Similarly the Our Walmart campaign, which led the Black Friday walkouts at the nation's largest retailer last November, uses community organizing tactics rather than standard unionization methods.
Both Fast Food Forward and Our Walmart rely on strategies and tactics perfected by the "worker center" movement that sprang up starting in the1990s. It includes dozens of community-based organizations representing taxi drivers, domestic workers, day laborers, street vendors and others at the bottom of the labor market. Many of these workers are excluded outright from New Deal laws like the FLSA and NLRA, since technically they are not "employees" but "independent contractors."
The worker centers have successfully spotlighted the many abuses such workers suffer, and have helped them organize. But as community-based groups with shoestring budgets and tiny staffs, the scale of their work has been severely limited. Still, some have managed to form national organizations, like the Restaurant Opportunities Center and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
One of them the Taxi Workers Alliance, is now formally affiliated with the AFL-CIO, which has developed other partnerships with worker centers in recent years.
If old-line labor unions - which despite their declining membership, still have relatively deep pockets and political clout - keep stepping up their support for such efforts, that could be a real game-changer.
That's the significance of the fast food walkouts: They could be the embryo of a new labor movement that challenges the power of organized money and the skyrocketing inequality that has made the American middle class an endangered species.
Like most construction workers who come to see Patricia Zavala, the two dozen men who crowded into her office in Austin, Tex., one afternoon in March had a complaint.
The workers, most of them Honduran immigrants, had jobs applying stucco to the exterior of a 17-story luxury student residence. It was difficult, dangerous work, but that was to be expected. What upset them was that for the previous two weeks their crew leader had not paid them; each was owed about $1,000.
Ms. Zavala, the workplace justice coordinator at the Workers Defense Project, listened to their stories and then spent a month failing to persuade the contractors to pay the back wages. So Ms. Zavala, 27, a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the daughter of a Peruvian immigrant, turned to what she calls the nuclear option: the workers filed a lien on the building site. That legal maneuver snarls any effort to make transactions on the property and sometimes causes banks and investors to freeze financing.
The lien, along with a threatened protest march, quickly got the attention of the dormitory's developer, American Campus Communities, and the general contractor, Harvey-Cleary Builders. Within hours, Harvey-Cleary arranged a meeting between the stucco contractor and the unpaid workers, and, presto, Harvey-Cleary and the contractor, Pillar Construction, agreed to pay the $24,767 owed to the workers.
"Liens are the very best tool workers have," said Cristina Tzintzún, executive director of the Workers Defense Project. Instead of dealing with subcontractors, she said, "you're negotiating with the project owner and general contractor. They can no longer shift responsibility and say: 'I paid the guy downriver. It's out of my hands.'"
The Workers Defense Project, founded in 2002, has emerged as one of the nation's most creative organizations for immigrant workers. Its focus is the Texas construction industry, which employs more than 600,000 workers, about half of whom, several studies suggest, are unauthorized immigrants.
Immigrant workers, especially those who are undocumented, are especially vulnerable to abuse by contractors. Each year, the Workers Defense Project, which has 2,000 dues-paying members, receives about 500 complaints from workers who say they were cheated out of overtime or denied a water break in Texas' scorching summer heat or stuck with huge hospital bills for an on-the-job injury.
The Workers Defense Project is one of 225 worker centers nationwide aiding many of the country's 22 million immigrant workers. The centers have sprouted up largely because labor unions have not organized in many fields where immigrants have gravitated, like restaurants, landscaping and driving taxis. And there is another reason: many immigrants feel that unions are hostile to them. Some union members say that immigrants, who are often willing to work for lower wages, are stealing their jobs.
"The Workers Defense Project is not like a union — it welcomes everyone," said Luis Rodriguez, a Mexican immigrant who sought the group's help after he lost a finger in a construction accident. "It is always willing to take in more people and help more people."
At a recent Workers Defense Project meeting — they are held every Tuesday night — the atmosphere was part pep rally, part educational session, part social hour. After a dinner of tacos, rice and beans, about 60 workers plotted strategy for a demonstration against the developer of a 1,000-room Marriott hotel. A skit mocking the developer drew raucous laughter. The energy and sense of solidarity were reminiscent of what America's labor unions had many decades ago, before they started to stumble and stagnate.
Worker centers, which are among the most vigorous champions of overhauling immigration laws, coalesce around issues or industries. For example, there is Domestic Workers United, which persuaded New York and Hawaii to enact a bill of rights for housekeepers and nannies, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which has gotten most Florida tomato growers to adopt a workers' code of conduct and to increase pay by at least 20 percent. Young Workers United played an important role in persuading the San Francisco City Council to enact a paid-sick-days law and a minimum wage of $10.55 an hour. With labor unions losing members and influence, these centers are increasingly seen as an important alternative form of workplace advocacy, although no one expects them to be nearly as effective as unions in winning raises, pensions or paid vacations.
"Worker centers are filling a void by reaching out to a work force that is particularly hard to reach out to," said Victor Narro, a specialist on immigrant workers at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Jefferson Cowie, a labor historian at Cornell, said: "Worker centers are part of the broad scramble of how to improve things for workers outside the traditional union/collective bargaining context. They've become little laboratories of experimentation."
Cristina Tzintzún, the executive director of the Workers Defense Project, says of its Texas efforts, "Things can only go up because working conditions are so awful."
As worker centers go, the Workers Defense Project in Austin has racked up an unusual number of successes. It has won more than $1 million in back pay over the last decade on behalf of workers alleging violations of minimum wage and overtime laws. A report it wrote on safety problems spurred the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate 900 construction sites in Texas — leading to nearly $2 million in fines.
And, despite a liberal image, the group made common cause with law-abiding contractors to persuade the state's Republican-dominated legislature to approve a law that made wage theft — an employer's deliberate failure to pay wages due — a criminal offense. The Workers Defense Project has just 18 employees, and its executive director, Ms. Tzintzún, 31, earns just $43,000 a year. But it managed to bring mighty Apple to the negotiating table. The group extracted a promise that construction workers on Apple's new Austin office complex would receive at least $12 an hour, not the more commonly paid $10 — as well as workers' compensation coverage.
The workers' compensation pledge was an important victory. The construction industry in Texas has a higher fatality rate than that in most other states, but Texas is the only one that does not require building contractors to provide workers' compensation to cover an injured worker's hospital bills and disability benefits.
"We like organizing here in Texas," Ms. Tzintzún said. "Things can only go up because working conditions are so awful."
As soon as word got out in March 2012 that Apple was planning to build a $300 million operations center in Austin, the Workers Defense Project sprang into action. Gregorio Casar, the group's business liaison — his title might more fittingly be thorn-in-the-side — learned that Apple hoped to receive tax incentives in exchange for promising to create 3,600 full-time jobs with salaries averaging at least $63,000.
But Mr. Casar, a University of Virginia graduate who is the son of Mexican immigrants, assumed that Apple's construction contractors would pay much less than that. The typical wage for nonunion construction laborers in Texas is just $10 an hour — about $20,000 a year.
Relying on relationships that the Workers Defense Project had built over the years, Mr. Casar, 24, persuaded the Austin City Council to require Apple to hold talks with the group as a condition for $8.6 million in city tax incentives. (The group had previously persuaded the council to enact Texas' first ordinance requiring rest and water breaks for construction workers.)
In these discussions, Mr. Casar demanded that Apple's construction contractors pay at least $12 an hour, provide safety training and workers' compensation, and allow the group's representatives to go to the site to inspect working conditions.
"Like many companies, Apple resisted at first because they wanted total flexibility," Mr. Casar said.
So the group turned up the heat. On March 22, just before the council's hearing on Apple's tax incentives, 100 protesters demonstrated outside City Hall. Inside the council chambers, Jose Nieto, a demolition worker affiliated with the Workers Defense Project, testified about how he had once nearly bled to death when a large mirror he was removing from a hotel wall broke and sliced into his arm. His hospital bill, which included multiple operations, was more than $80,000. He had no workers' compensation to pay for the operations or support his family.
Mr. Nieto implored the council not to grant Apple the tax incentives unless it accepted the Workers Defense Project's demands. "It is in your power to prevent things like this from happening to other people," he told the council.
Several weeks of negotiations ensued. Apple — then under criticism for conditions at the Foxconn plants in China that build its products — agreed to almost all of the group's demands.
"Apple is a strong supporter of workers' rights around the world," Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, said recently. "We've had a productive dialogue with the Workers Defense Project since we first heard from them last year. We shared many of the group's goals."
Ms. Tzintzún has an explanation for these victories. "We make it very hard for people to oppose us publicly," she said. "We know what we're asking for is the bare minimum, and we remind everybody of that."
In taking on one of the world's most successful companies, the Workers Defense Project showed how far it has come. Six years ago, it had just two employees: Ms. Tzintzún, then a senior at the University of Texas, and Emily Timm, now the group's policy director, who had just graduated from Brown University and was working part time at a homeless shelter where many low-paid immigrant construction workers passed through.
The group limped along with insecure financing until 2009. That year, three immigrant workers plunged 11 floors when their scaffold collapsed in Austin; all three died. A week later, the Workers Defense Project released a 68-page report on worker safety.
The report had been a year in the making. Prepared with the help of University of Texas researchers, it found that two-thirds of 312 construction workers surveyed had not received basic health and safety training and that three-fourths had no health insurance. Most shocking, it calculated that one construction worker died in Texas every two-and-a-half days from work-related injuries.
To draw attention to the report — and to provide a television-friendly shot — Ms. Tzintzún and Ms. Timm held a news conference in front of 142 pairs of empty work boots. That was the number of construction workers who died in Texas in 2007. The report received media attention across Texas and turned the group overnight into an influential voice in a state where labor unions are weak.
The group's higher profile has also meant more criticism. Stan Marek, chairman of a construction company based in Houston, called the group "a junkyard dog." "They keep coming at you," he said.
Scott Haeglin, project manager for Harvey-Cleary, voiced some annoyance with the group for filing the nettlesome lien and holding a protest march despite the settlement. "We take pride in treating our workers well and resolving these matters," he said.
Phil Thoden, president of the Austin chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, said: "They have a tendency to paint the entire industry in a negative light. It's frustrating that when there's an incident on a job site, they help give it tremendous media coverage and it leaves the public with the impression that contractors are doing nothing to protect their workers."
Industry lobbyists have blocked many of the group's initiatives in the State Capitol. A proposal to stop the common practice of classifying workers as independent contractors — allowing construction contractors to avoid providing benefits or paying overtime — died in committee. So did a proposal to require workers' compensation in construction.
Some business-backed groups have begun a new attack on worker centers in recent weeks, calling them union-front groups set up to circumvent legal requirements that unions face, like strict financial disclosure.
Not all businesses object to the centers. The Workers Defense Project has made allies of many who dislike being undercut by what they call "low-road contractors" — for instance, those that do not provide workers' compensation.
"It makes no sense — in Texas I'm required to have insurance on the cargo I haul up a construction elevator, but not on the workers in that elevator," said Andy Anderson, owner of Linden Steel, which provides steel and labor to building projects.
Impressed by the Workers Defense Project's success in helping immigrant workers and highlighting job safety, the Ford Foundation and others have showered it with grants. As a result, the project's budget has swelled to $1 million — four times what it was just four years ago. The money has helped finance building site inspectors and safety and computer classes.
Many worker centers rely heavily on grants. "We're flavor of the month right now," Ms. Tzintzún said. "I worry what happens to our funding when we're not."
Henry Allen, the recently retired executive director of the Discount Foundation, one of the group's first benefactors, voiced confidence in its future. "They're a real model," he said. "If there's a future for organizing for worker justice, I think it's the Workers Defense Project."
Luis Rodriguez, 42, a short and stocky man with a thick mustache and a deep, bass voice, came to the Workers Defense Project early last year. A heavy industrial drill had torn off his right index finger as he dislodged it from a wall. Doctors could not reattach the finger, and after 20 years of construction work, Mr. Rodriguez was suddenly too disabled to work.
That contractor provided workers' comp, but the checks did not arrive — and when he went to the state workers' comp office, he ran into one obstacle after another. "A lady working there whispered to me, 'You should go to the Workers Defense Project,'" he said.
The project helped him get his checks, and it provided him with a cause: worker empowerment. "I was really lost when I went to them," he said. "I was one of those people who didn’t know anything. But now I know my rights. Now I won't let some jerk step on me."
Educating immigrant workers and turning them into activists and leaders is central to the project's mission. Immigrants make up half of its board, and Mr. Rodriguez is on its Construction Workers Committee. "No union can substitute for what the Workers Defense Project does," he said. "A union is a more closed group."
Unions often help workers win better wages and safer workplaces, but unionizing is especially hard in right-to-work states like Texas. The large number of unauthorized immigrants makes it even harder, because many of them fear that outright union support could lead to deportation. (The Workers Defense Project does not ask whether workers who come to it are in the United States legally.)
In the project’s early days, unions often viewed it as an antagonist, a supporter of immigrants who stole jobs from Americans. But unions now often work and march alongside the Workers Defense Project. The change dates from its influential 2009 report about the dangers of construction work in Texas.
"If you had asked me a few years ago, would we be working with a group of nonunion workers to help them better their lives, we'd ask, why would we help people that are taking our jobs?" said Michael Cunningham, executive director of the Texas Building and Construction Trades Council. "Well, the fact is they already have our jobs."
"By working together," he continued, "we're trying to drive out low-road contractors that are driving down wages."
As organized labor strains to reverse its membership decline, unions have established an uneasy alliance with many worker centers, hoping that they might someday help bring immigrant workers into established unions.
"There's a need to experiment with new ways to reach workers who haven't been reached by unions," said Anna Fink, a liaison between the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and foundations that help finance worker centers. "The labor movement doesn't have the deep trust that worker centers have built with immigrant worker communities."
Worker centers have done much to discourage wage theft and have marginally increased the pay of some workers. But they do not begin to have the power that unions once had to vault workers into a middle-class life.
Mr. Rodriguez may feel empowered, but he is also poor. After losing his finger, he could not work for seven months. His family of five lost its apartment and moved into a trailer. His son who is now 20 quit high school to help support the family, and to his great shame, Mr. Rodriguez had to cancel his daughter's quinceañera celebration.
When he returned to work, he found a job framing walls and staircases that paid $11 an hour, $440 a week. That, he said, was not enough, considering that his rent is $850 a month, not to mention costs for electricity, telephone, gasoline, car and food. Some months he makes ends meet only because of that 20-year-old son, who earns money as a disc jockey. A few weeks ago, Mr. Rodriguez found a job paying $14 an hour. He hopes it lasts.
"Eleven dollars an hour isn't really enough," he said. "It's difficult to survive on that."
But he is grateful to have survived. Many construction workers do not, a truth brought home in 2011, when the Workers Defense Project organized a haunting procession to the State Capitol with 138 mock coffins, commemorating all the Texas construction workers who died in job-related incidents in 2009.
Now, each year, the group commemorates a Day of the Fallen. The workers at the defense project come together around tragedy and hurt, but with a larger purpose, "Now," Mr. Rodriguez said, "I tell other workers how to stand up for their rights."
Rail workers on the Union Pacific are on strike in Chicago, but they are not traditional railroaders. They are contract workers who service locomotives, work traditionally done by railroad employees paid much more than the $14 an hour at Mobile Rail Solutions.
The 30 workers who oil and fuel the locomotives and empty their toilets went public with a union recognition drive July 8. Mobile promptly hired the union-busting law firm Ogletree and Deakins. Workers filed several OSHA complaints that prompted inspections—and the company fired three of them.
Now the workers are staging an unfair labor practices strike that has seriously affected Mobile’s ability to fulfill its contract with Union Pacific. The manager has refused to meet with organizers and workers about the firings.
Their union is the Industrial Workers of the World—the Wobblies. The IWW filed unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday that included surveillance, intimidation, firings, and promises of payment for non-participation in the strike. The NLRB has set August 14 for a recognition election.
Because the Mobile workers are contract employees, they are not bound by the Railway Labor Act that makes it almost impossible for railroaders to strike. But neither are they in the Railroad Retirement System; they have no pension or health benefits. They are organizing for safe vehicles and for pay equivalent to that of other union workers doing the same job.
Railroad Workers United, a cross-union caucus of rank-and-filers, has been helping with the campaign by lending organizing and strategic assistance and sharing contacts with railroaders and organizations in the Chicago area. RWU has donated to the strike fund that will cover the cost of the strike and help the fired workers. You can support the Mobile Rail Workers Union by donating here.
As the railroads prop up their bottom line by contracting out, some rail workers see contract workers as scabs and feel threatened by the companies’ continued attack on their higher-paid jobs. Other railroaders ask why the traditional rail unions have not been on the heels of these smaller contract companies, organizing them. Before deciding to organize with the IWW, the Mobile workers had gone to the United Transportation Union and the Transportation Workers Union, but neither union showed interest.
In 2010 the United Electrical Workers organized 160 minimum-wage van drivers who ferry rail crews from yard to yard—work that, 20 years ago, was done by rail union members at $20 an hour.
The IWW is known for emphasizing direct action and the principle of “one big union” of workers in the same industry (rather than separate unions for different crafts). Railway union leaders were among the union’s 1905 founders, and railroads figure prominently in the lore of the union’s early years, when organizers would travel the country by hopping freight trains.
“We chose the IWW because of their hands-on, do-it-yourself fighting model,” Ahern Owen said. “There is no better way for workers to feel like they own it than to have them do it themselves.”
The fact that the Mobile workers decided to organize with the IWW may be a look into the past and future of the movement to organize low-paid workers.
J.P. Wright is a Railroad Workers United organizer and a locomotive engineer with CSX railroad. Wright serves as an alternate on the TDU Steering Committee.
In an effort to build a more unified labor movement, the United Food and Commercial Workers announced today it is reaffiliating with the AFL-CIO and disaffiliating from the Change to Win federation.
However, UFCW President Joseph Hansen said UFCW will remain active in CTW's Strategic Organizing Center and will “bring our AFL-CIO partners into collaboration with private sector unions in an effort to build more power for workers.”
Hansen made the decision to rejoin the AFL-CIO and received a vote of support from UFCW's Executive Board at a meeting in preparation for the union's upcoming convention, which begins, UFCW spokeswoman Jill Cashen told BNA today.
In announcing the affiliation, Hansen said UFCW was joining the AFL-CIO “because it is the right thing to do for UFCW members, giving them more power and influence.”
“This is not about which building in Washington, D.C., we call home—it is about fostering more opportunities for workers to have a true voice on the job,” he said. “It is about joining forces to build a more united labor movement that can fight back against the corporate and political onslaught facing our members each and every day.”
The affiliation will become effective in time for UFCW to send members to the AFL-CIO convention, which begins in Los Angeles, Cashen said, although they will not be seated delegates. With 1.3 million members, UFCW will become the largest private sector affiliate of the AFL-CIO, she added.
UFCW left the AFL-CIO in 2005 to join with six other former AFL-CIO unions to form the Change to Win Federation (146 DLR AA-1, 8/1/05; 187 DLR AA-1, 9/28/05).
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is now fully staffed and able to continue to function to protect workers’ rights after the U.S. Senate today confirmed five members. The votes end a months-long blockade on President Obama’s nominees by Senate Republicans who threatened to shut the board down Aug. 27.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the confirmations are:
"Good news for all workers seeking to exercise the rights they are guaranteed by law. Those essential rights include the ability to bargain together for fair wages and living standards and a workplace safe from abuse, harassment and intimidation."
The five members are current NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce; Nancy Schiffer, a former AFL-CIO associate general counsel; and NLRB attorney Kent Hirozawa, currently the chief counsel to Pearce; and attorneys Philip Miscimarra and Harry Johnson, who represent management in labor-management relations.
Earlier this month, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was set to change Senate rules that would have eliminated filibusters against certain executive branch nominees, Republicans ended their obstruction tactics on the NLRB nominees, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez and several others.
Trumka said the obstructionism by extremist Republicans “delayed the confirmation of a full Board and caused unnecessary anxiety and pain for working families.”
He also said:
"With today’s vote, our country has qualified public servants on duty to defend America’s workers, businesses and families. We congratulate all of the nominees and look forward to having a functioning NLRB that will fairly and impartially oversee the workplace rights of millions of Americans."